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Psychedelics for Depression and Anxiety -

Psychedelics for Depression and Anxiety

October 11, 2022
Anxiety and Psychedelic Trip
Anxiety and Psychedelic Trip

Depression is thought to affect around 6% of the global population at any given time, and 1 in 6 will suffer from depression during their lifetime. Anxiety is even more common and affects up to 20% of the US population.

Not only are these disorders common, but they’re not always easy to treat. The most commonly prescribed medications are addictive and come with a long list of side effects. To make matters worse, they don’t always work, with up to 30% of patients not responding to treatment.

Psychedelics could be the answer to this growing problem. They have been studied for their therapeutic potential since the 1960s, and in the last decade or so, there have been some eye-opening discoveries in the field of psychiatric treatment.

Can Psychedelics Help With Anxiety and Depression?

We have known about the potential for psychedelic drugs to treat depressive symptoms since the 1960s. Drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) were used in numerous clinical trials, often to great effect.

But after LSD was outlawed in 1968 and magic mushrooms followed two years later, these studies stopped.

Thankfully, however, there has been a renewed interest in the last decade and we’ve seen a number of studies relating to mental health disorders and addiction disorders.

According to these studies (and ones conducted in the 1960s), psychedelics could be used to treat the following conditions.

Major Depressive Disorder and Treatment-Resistant Depression

A meta-analysis of psychedelic studies found that close to 80% of patients with treatment-resistant depression and major depression showed “clinician-judged improvement” following the use of psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin.

In one study, published in The Lancet, patients with treatment-resistant major depression were given two doses of psilocybin 7 days apart, but this was enough to markedly reduce their depressive symptoms. None of the patients reported any serious adverse effects.

End-of-Life Anxiety

Numerous studies have looked at the effects of LSD and psilocybin on cancer patients, with the goal being to reduce the depression, psychological isolation, and end-of-life anxiety faced by these patients.

In one such study, psychedelics were given to 60 cancer patients (most received just LSD; some received DPT, a few were given both), and their levels of anxiety and depression severity were measured.

Researchers found that most patients relied less on narcotics during the study and that 29% of them reported dramatic improvements. A further 41.9% reported moderate improvement.

Another study, conducted many years later, achieved similar results with psilocybin treatment, noting that these drugs could be used to manage “the profound existential anxiety and despair that often accompany advanced-stage cancers”.

Drug Abuse and Alcohol Use Disorder

Ibogaine, a hallucinogen from the iboga plant, has been studied for its apparent ability to treat substance abuse disorders. Many opioid addicts in the US visit iboga retreats for this very reason, and the scientific literature seemingly supports this anecdotal evidence.

In one 2017 study, researchers monitored 14 participants who had been given ibogaine for opioid dependence. The subjects were monitored over 12 months.

Researchers found that the participants recorded significantly reduced withdrawal symptoms following ibogaine use and were much less likely to use opioids in the months that followed.

Similar studies have been conducted on LSD and magic mushrooms. It could be that these drugs are helping to tackle the underlying cause of addiction or providing a revelation that people need to make a change.

Psilocybin-assisted therapy has also been used in the treatment of alcohol dependence and may even help with smoking cessation.

Can Psychedelic Drugs Help With Anxiety?

Most of the clinical studies involving psychedelics and anxiety have involved terminal cancer patients and severe cases of anxiety. However, the results from these studies suggest that psychedelic therapy could be effective at treating anxiety not related to end-of-life concerns.

Psychedelics for the Treatment of Other Mental Health Conditions

Psychedelic treatment may help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental disorders. However, self-medicating is not advised and psychedelic drugs are also not recommended for anyone who struggles with delusions and hallucinations brought on by conditions such as schizophrenia.

What Psychedelics Are Used To Treat Depression?

Most of the studies conducted on psychedelics have used LSD and psilocybin. It seems that these two drugs may provide the most benefits with regard to mental illness and substance abuse disorders. However, there have also been a number of clinical trials using drugs like ibogaine, DMT, and ketamine.

What Is The Best Psychedelic For Depression?

The most promising studies have used psilocybin. In studies conducted by Johns Hopkins University, for instance, psilocybin was found to be effective for up to a year, even though only 2 initial doses were used.

However, there have been no studies looking at multiple psychedelic drugs and comparing them to a control group, so we can’t really say which one is best.

Can Psychedelic Drugs Really Be Used as Prescription Drugs?

Unlike anti-depressants and other commonly prescribed medications, psychedelic drugs don’t need to be used every day. The studies cited in this guide often used just one or two doses. This seems to be enough to produce the desired effects, and those effects usually hang around for a long time.

It’s not that psychedelics are triggering the release of a brain chemical that makes you feel good for a few hours or blocks chemicals that could make you feel bad. It’s that they are rewiring your brain to change the way you think, feel, and perceive the world around you, and these effects could last for months after use.

In that sense, if psilocybin and LSD are ever prescribed for the treatment of mental health disorders, you won’t simply be given a prescription and then asked to return for a refill a few weeks later. Instead, you may be given the drug in a clinical setting, monitored closely, and then sent on your way once the trip is over, allowing you to enjoy months of benefits.

Summary: The Future of Psychedelic Treatment

It’s clear that psychedelics can have a positive effect on individuals struggling with anxiety and depression. The effects vary, and these drugs are not magic bullets, but if they can help the majority of patients, then they’re already more effective than most existing treatments.

The great thing about psychedelics is that they seem to be effective in very small doses and without having a major impact on the individual’s life. There are very few adverse effects and minimal potential for abuse.

Compare this to drugs like Valium and Xanax, which are heavily abused, highly addictive, and responsible for thousands of overdose deaths every year, and you’ll understand why there is so much buzz surrounding psychedelic treatments.

Of course, further research needs to be conducted before concrete conclusions can be made, and it may be some time before we see widespread prescriptions for LSD and psilocybin, but that seems to be the direction we’re heading in.